Is Arby’s fish sandwich real fish?

Arby’s fish sandwich has been a popular menu item for years, but some customers have questioned whether the fish used is real or imitation. This article will examine if Arby’s fish is made from real fish fillets or a fish-flavored processed seafood product. We’ll look at the ingredients, nutrition facts, customer reviews, and statements from Arby’s to get to the bottom of this fishy question.

What’s in Arby’s Fish Sandwich?

According to the Arby’s website, the fish sandwich contains the following ingredients:

– Fish fillets – unspecified white fish
– Tartar sauce
– Lettuce
– Tomato
– Seasame seed bun

The nutrition facts show the fish sandwich contains 260 calories, 10g fat, 570mg sodium, 24g protein, 29g carbs per sandwich.

The high protein and relatively low calorie content indicates real fish, as imitation seafood tends to be lower in protein and fattier due to fillers and binders used in processing. The unspecified white fish makes it difficult to know exactly what type of fish is used.

Imitation Seafood Vs Real Fish

Imitation seafood like surimi is typically made from processed fish paste with added carbohydrates, egg whites, and flavorings. It has a much softer, spongier texture compared to real fish fillets. Imitation seafood also tends to have higher sodium content due to added salts and chemical preservatives.

Real fish has a firmer, flakier texture and fishier taste. It has higher natural protein content and less added fillers compared to imitation seafood products. Identifying real vs fake fish can be done by examining nutrition labels, ingredients lists, texture, and taste.

Fish Fillet Ingredients

The Arby’s fish sandwich ingredients list specifies “fish fillets” rather than a seafood mixture or blend. This indicates the use of real fish instead of formed or shaped surimi seafood. The high protein content backs this up as well.

While the exact species is unspecified, some potential candidates for affordable white fish fillets include:

– Pollock
– Haddock
– Tilapia
– Swai
– Catfish

These mild white fish are popular choices for fast food and retail fish fillets, tends to be lower cost, and have a lighter flavor suitable for fried fish sandwiches.

Arby’s Fish Sandwich Reviews

Customer reviews of Arby’s fish sandwich provide opinions on the taste, texture, quality and similarity to other fish sandwiches like McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. Here are some insights on the realness of the fish from online comments:

“The fish itself tasted like real fish, not that mushy fake crab taste you get sometimes with fast food fish.”

“Had a good flavor, fish tasted fried just right, not greasy or bogged down by batter like some places.”

“The fish was white, flaky, and mild like what you expect from cod or pollock. You can tell it’s a real piece of fish, not a chop/form patty or mushy block of filler.”

“Way better than McD’s fish sandwich. Theirs is like a bleached white spongy block, Arby’s actually fries up real fish.”

The positive mentions of flaky, mild fish with an identifiable fillet texture indicate customers seem to consider the fish real and of decent quality compared to competitors.

Negative Reviews on Fish Realness

However, some customer reviews questioned if the fish was 100% real:

“Had a kind of fake fish stick flavor, not tasteless but lacked a fresh fish taste.”

“Fish is decent but seems borderline on real vs artificial, hard to tell exactly.”

“The breading overwhelms the taste, if it’s real fish it’s heavily processed.”

“Edible but doubt it’s high quality fish, about what you’d expect in fast food.”

While not fully convinced the fish is imitation, some feel the flavor and texture lacks freshness you’d expect from fresh fillets, likely due to pre-processing.

Arby’s Response on Fish Sandwich Ingredients

When asked directly whether their fish sandwich contains real or artificial fish, Arby’s has confirmed it is made from real fish fillets, stating on their website:

“The fish fillets that we serve on our fish sandwiches are 100% real Alaskan Pollock fish fillets.”

An Arby’s customer service agent also confirmed the sandwich is “made with real white fish” after being asked if it contained imitation seafood.

Alaskan Pollock

By specifying Alaskan Pollock, Arby’s identifies the white fish species used in the sandwich. Pollock is the most abundantly caught wild whitefish in the world, popular for its mild flavor and light texture when baked or fried. It’s considered a sustainable fishery with Marine Stewardship Council certification.

Identifying the exact species of whitefish helps back up Arby’s claims that the fish sandwich contains real fillets rather than generalized imitation seafood.

Nutritional Comparison to McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish

The McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich is perhaps the most famous and popular fast food fish sandwich, so comparing it nutritionally to Arby’s fish sandwich can provide more clues on real vs imitation fish:

Nutrition Facts Arby’s Fish Sandwich McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish
Calories 260 380
Protein 24g 14g
Fat 10g 18g
Sodium 570mg 830mg
Carbs 29g 44g

Arby’s fish sandwich is significantly lower in calories, fat, and sodium compared to McDonald’s. The protein content is much higher as well. This indicates Arby’s likely uses real lean fish fillets whereas McDonald’s uses more fillers, batter, and imitation seafood. The nutritional values back up Arby’s claims of real fish.

Filet-O-Fish Ingredients

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish contains:

– Fish patty (Alaska Pollock, water, wheat starch, yellow corn flour)
– Tartar sauce
– Processed American cheese
– Steamed bun

The McDonald’s fish patty contains added starches, corn flour, and batter which contributes to the higher carbs, fat, and calories. The fillet itself is also made from pulverized Alaskan Pollock blended with fillers versus a whole fillet slice.

Is the Fish Pre-Breaded or Hand-Breaded?

One question around Arby’s fish sandwich is whether the fillets are delivered pre-breaded and frozen, or hand-breaded at each restaurant.

Some customer reviews mention the breading seems thick and uniform, possibly indicating pre-breaded fillets:

“Breading was ultra-thick, seemed like a pre-made thing just reheated on site.”

“The thick battered coating made it seem like a prefab fish patty type thing.”

However, other reviews suggest the sandwich is hand-breaded to order:

“Fish tasted freshly fried to order, not a pre-breaded frozen thing.”

“You can tell the breading is done by hand, not uniform like a precaked frozen fillet.”

“They fry it up after you order, came out hot and crispy.”

Without official confirmation from Arby’s, it remains unclear if the fillets are hand-breaded or pre-breaded. Either way they appear to use real Alaskan Pollock according to the ingredients and nutrition information.

Is Arby’s Fish Sandwich Fried or Baked?

Frying tends to be the standard cooking method for fish sandwiches, including Arby’s. Deep frying helps achieve a crispy exterior breading and keep the interior fish fillet moist and flaky.

Based on reviews, Arby’s fish sandwich is fried rather than baked or grilled:

“The sandwich was piping hot and steaming right after ordering, the fillet had obviously just come out of the fryer.”

“The warm, just-fried fish paired great with the cool tartar sauce.”

“You could see employees loading the baskets of fish into the fryers in the open kitchen.”

Frying helps explain the difference in fat and calorie content compared to the baked McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. Overall, frying appears to be the standard preparation for Arby’s fish sandwiches based on consumer reviews.

Price and Value of Arby’s Fish Sandwich

The price of Arby’s fish sandwich is comparable to or lower than major competitors like McDonald’s depending on location. As of November 2022, the average prices are:

– Arby’s – $5.29
– McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish – $5.29
– Wendy’s Premium Fish Fillet – $5.29
– BK Big Fish – $4.29

Arby’s fish sandwich is priced equal or lower than most alternatives while reviews suggest it contains higher quality fish. This indicates it is likely a good value for the price if you enjoy breaded fried fish sandwiches.

Price Fluctuations

As a limited time seasonal offering, the price of Arby’s fish sandwich sometimes increases slightly when it returns:

2021 Price – $4.99
2022 Price – $5.29

Despite small year-over-year increases, it has remained under $6, appropriate for fast food fried fish sandwiches. Some locations also offer periodic discounts on the sandwich during Lent.


Based on ingredients lists, nutrition information, customer reviews, and statements from Arby’s, the fish sandwich appears to contain real Alaskan Pollock fish fillets rather than imitation seafood. The high protein, low fat content, and reviews of the fillet’s texture back up that real fish is used.

There are some debates around whether the fillets are hand-breaded or pre-breaded, and exactly how fresh they taste, but the consensus is that real fish is used. When compared to competitors like McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, Arby’s sandwich appears nutritionally superior and likely contains less filler and processed seafood.

At around $5, it’s competitively priced for a fast food fish sandwich containing real fish. In conclusion, while some questions exist around pre-processing and hand-breading, the preponderance of evidence indicates Arby’s fish sandwich does in fact contain real fish fillets, not imitation seafood. So for those craving a crispy fried fish sandwich, Arby’s option appears to be a safe bet containing actual pollock.

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